As already talked about, the race for the next mayor of Newark provided a contrast in styles and approaches to governing the city. When given the choice between someone who wanted to change the direction of the city and someone who wanted to continue to seek reforms for the city similar to the previous mayor, voters went with the former. Councilman Ras Baraka would defeat Shavar Jeffries. Baraka, a community activist, had spoken much back about taking the city back and everyone being mayor of the city and ultimately 54% supported that message to the 46% that Jeffries received.
Baraka will face a $93 million budget deficit, one of the many issues talked about during the campaign. That deficit along with a murder rate at a 25 year high and a struggling school system that has under achieved have led to discussions at the state level of outside involvement. There have already been steps and reforms put in motion with regard to public education in the city and Baraka has been a vocal critic of those measures. The work that former Mayor and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ)'s did doing his two and his direction for improving the city was likely on a good amount of voters' minds as Baraka was presenting a different path for the city compared to much of the last decade. Based on the outcome of the election, one can gather that enough people in the city want someone with the a different approach to moving the city forward. It is certainly worth debating what approach can truly solve those three main issues and others.
That aspect of what is truly best for Newark and who truly knows the city was part of the divide during Booker's two terms stemming from the fact that he was not born and raised in Newark. Even though he became part of the city as a young adult and matured as a reformer for the city; that never seemed enough for many in the city. He knew the struggles of the city and that was a focal point of his reason to run for mayor 8 years ago. Baraka and Jeffries would battle over the same concept of being the true Newarker. Baraka and Jeffries both have spent much of their life in the city but Baraka through his father, Amiri, has deeper roots. His platform provided not only a contrast to Jeffries' platform but Booker's two terms and the former mayor and mayor-elect often battled over initiatives and the direction of the city. Now he gets the chance to lead the city his way.
The race was shaped by more than just the two men as their campaigns were just as fierce against each other including a campaign bus belonging to the Baraka campaign being lit on fire. Outside money was additionally being funneled in for both candidates. About $3 million was spent on ads, mailings, and other election materials. The majority of those funds going towards Jeffries' efforts and campaign. The fact that there was that much outside spending involved, it increased the fiery nature of the race with anonymous donors and their influence impacting the race. There was also some notable names in the fray for each candidate as well with Congressman Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ10) supporting Jeffries and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and state Senator Richard Codey (D-27) backing Baraka. Some were even discussing what impact the outcome of the race might have on Fulop's future as his name is being mentioned among potential Democratic candidates for governor in 2017 and now he has power and influence in two of the bigger Democratic areas in the state.
In the wake of the election's outcome, Booker would reach out to Baraka to congratulate him. He would also release the following statement:
Elections in Newark can be very tough, but both candidates gave voters a healthy and important debate on the issues. I congratulate Mayor-elect Baraka for his victory. As a Newark resident and United States senator, I look forward to fully supporting him as he steps up to lead Newark, deal with our city's challenges and continue to move our city into a brighter and better future. I think that there is a lot of wisdom in the city of Newark that picked a really promising mayor. I think that Mayor Baraka is going to do a phenomenal job. I just want to help him in any way that I can.
Baraka officially begins his term on July 1st. The attention has quickly turned to what Baraka will do for the city. As discussed, there are three main issues that will be a major part of his initial months in office. Booker was known to work with others in the state including Governor Chris Christie. Within a week of his victory, he was already talking with the governor. Time will tell what the future of Newark looks like. It will definitely have a different direction compared to much of the last decade. That may or may not be good for the city that needs a surge of energy to fix its budget, its crime rate, and its educational system.